DEAR READERS: According to veterinarian Dr. Jon M. Geller with The Street Dog Coalition, of the approximately 580,000 homeless individuals in the U.S., tens of thousands of them own pets and cannot afford basic veterinary care for them -- or medical help for themselves. Working with human health care providers and social workers, veterinary charities are now filling the breach for the benefit of unhoused people and animals alike.
Skeptics may say that people have no right to own an animal if they cannot afford to care for it, but in reality, most of these animals are rescued strays. The constant human contact and affection they receive often means they enjoy a better quality of life than the uncounted numbers of dogs left alone all day, frequently in cages, to "protect" the owner's home.
These companion animals of the homeless provide immeasurable mental health benefits, especially for military veterans -- who now make up some 40,000 of the U.S. homeless population -- suffering from depression, isolation, despair and PTSD.
For more details, and ways that you can help in your community, visit thestreetdogcoalition.org.
HELPING UKRAINIAN PEOPLE'S PETS
Romania, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary have simplified and relaxed microchip and documentation requirements for pets of refugees from Ukraine, though some pets may have to be held in quarantine. Food and water supplies are dwindling at animal shelters in Ukraine. Some animals died of heart attacks at an animal shelter near an airfield that was bombed, and some have been hit by bullets, according to the Happy Paw Foundation. Animal rescue groups are asking for donations. (Full stories: San Jose Mercury News; Vet Times U.K.; both Feb. 28)
Additional information, resources and ways to help are available at the following links.
-- International Fund for Animal Welfare: ifaw.org/eu/news/emergency-aid-ukraine
-- Animal Food Bank raises funds: globalnews.ca/news/8653612/animal-food-bank-raising-funds-to-support-animals-in-ukraine
-- Species Unite rounds up ways to help: speciesunite.com/news-stories/heres-how-you-can-help-animals-caught-in-the-ukraine-crisis
DEAR DR. FOX: I went to the trouble to feed and trap a cat that I'd seen hanging around my neighborhood. It was a big Siamese, so I thought this purebred might have run away from home, or was kicked out, I don't know. It was pretty calm, except it had a low growl when I went near it.
Anyway, the local humane society took it in but won't let me see it -- they say it needs a "clean break," which I don't think is fair at all. I cared about this cat and they won't tell me anything about it or how it is doing! Makes me think twice about bringing in another. I feel they are inhumane and I'm being punished for bringing it in! -- D.L., Maryland Heights, Missouri
DEAR D.L.: I applaud your concerns for this cat you rescued. Local humane societies/animal shelters have put restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, limiting visitors to reduce the chances of human-to-animal transmission of this coronavirus, to which cats are susceptible. That being said, to deny you the opportunity to see the cat you rescued because it needs a "clean break" does seem strange. Please pass on my email to the director and ask for a veterinary clarification and justification.
On a personal note, our Minnesota Animal Humane Society released a perfectly adoptable cat, whom I could pet and cuddle on my lap, onto our property after wrongly deeming him unadoptable. My subsequent request to observe how the "cat behavioral expert" was assessing cats' temperaments and behavior at the facility was denied. We took the cat in and rehomed him.
Thanks again for caring -- a quality too often lacking in some animal shelter operations.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)